Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #7: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 3)


One of the maestras, shared her experiences on growing up in a community where womxn have not traditionally been allowed behind the drums. When she decided to pursue the journey of learning anyways, she took it as a very big responsibility: She spent her life seeking out maestros and maestras, learning from their lessons and working very hard. “When I get behind the drum I am a different person: It is a shield from the rest of the world.”

Following up to these thoughts, Iris Viveros suggested that through music we disrupt things as they are, and we create something else apart: She mentioned something that I’ve thought about many times, which is that music and especially this kind of community dance, we fight the neoliberal notions of individualism, and we realize that without the context of our traditions and oral histories, we don’t make sense, the artistic process is not complete. Herself as a graduate student, she commented how competition is incentivized between students. Be the first one to do this, achieve this before anyone else! At some point it’s very easy to let your goals losen in between this frenetic competitive spirit that in some way yes, it motivates us to get to different places, but at the same time it creates a lot of stress in the individual, and it tricks us into believing that we are in this journey by ourselves.

One time I found myself pushing my partner to also take on these kinds of challenges: He loves reading all kinds of books, but most importantly comic books and graphic novels. It was his biggest passion as a kid, and now as a young adult his journey continues. Every time I let the anxieties of future and this neoliberal world take on me he reminds me, my goal for life is to read every single comic book/graphic novel”. Let me be on my journey, on getting to know the different artists. I do not seek money or titles, stability. I seek freedom and a community. I will not die of stress and a poor live, stripped of community and art. These words resounded very well within me as I later spoke with Iris Viveros.

She commented how she knows many professors who have passed away of cancer, how it is so strictly linked with stress and anxiety. And how being part of communities that celebrate dance like this one, can help so much. We are meant to join these kind of practices, aren’t we? When I was looking at the children during the event having fun next to their parents who were relaxed as well, it reminded me how “an entire village is needed to raise a child”, and I reminded myself how we should never treat ourselves as if we had grown up all the way, and we did not need of that village to continue educating each other.

That is how I have decided that I will start looking for dance classes and overall, for a community  like this to join and to learn from!

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #6: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 2)


As the Q&A Section of the event carried on, a we were analyzing “what art did to everyone”, the tone of the answers started shifting especially towards the act of healing through art. I personally related a lot to this characteristic that art brings to our lives: Since the age of 16 I have experienced constant periods of mental instability that have made It difficult for me to remember that I am worth my goals and my achievements, that I should always keep going, even when I am the one standing on my way. This year I started singing more constantly in a cabaret show that we organize with what I call my latinx adoptive family of friends here in Capitol Hill, and being able to express myself artistically has at least opened a way of being that I had forgotten while I was buried under the academic institution that has seen me grow since the age of 3. All I can think of now, is wishing for my college days to be over so I can go home in the evenings and rehearse, meet with my friends and continue building what we started!


One of the maestras opened up her past, exploring the intersectionality of her being POC and an artist womxn: “I think that dance and art is what made me possible. As a child I carried a lot of pain, I used to think I didn’t deserve love. But through music and dancing, as I was trying to discover who I am as an artist, I realized I was looking for a home, for validation. Art for me, is what made this realization possible. I had been trying to hid my blackness all my childhood: Getting into drumming and dancing helped internalize this process.” 


Art gives you the mental space to be able to walk without fear and with assentation. With proudness”.  – This is a phrase I will never forget, because it is true! That is why we need art so much in our lives! Another maestra followed up with her own comment on the subject: Art gives you a sense of belonging, it makes us feel as if all of us are here together and having our part to play. If I come and I listen to you singing in the coro, I will involuntarily join in the singing!

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #5: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 1)


At around 3:30 pm, we all brought the chairs back into the space, and sat happily and sweaty, still getting out of the trance that the experience of dancing and singing in unison produces. The maestras were given microphones, and asked questions that I tried to type as fast as I could. These are  some of the answers, which were open and profound. Like the feminists they are, they constantly intertwined with their bringing up, and what communities helped them become who they are. They all emphasized the importance of creating spaces like these for mothers and children, so they can be participants of the artistic process, and have the children learn as they grow up. What does art mean to you? That was a question whose answers I will not forget:

Some mentioned how art means to heal and to decolonize themselves: Amarilys Rios commented: I make music and music is my therapy. I don’t know how else to explain it. Music is your spirit, the universal language. What better connection is there than this one?

Denise Solís commented that art is the creation of spaces where 2 spirt folks like herself, feel welcome to come in. It’s a space where folks can come in however they need to come. This is what bomba is to me.

One of the maestras, explained how she had been practicing bomba since she is 5 years old. “Bomba is what I live, what I breathe… it’s where I am the proudest. My main thing in bomba is singing, touching souls, messing with energies.”- I personally found this very true, and something that every artist I have ever known has shared when I ask about the purpose of art. Being able to touch other people’s spirits, to see them heal and heal with them is a kind of magic that only art can create. That is why at the Womxn’s Action Commission, we want to bring as many artistic forms as possible!

Iris Viveros shared her experiences when it comes to art, in relation to Fandango from Veracruz, and the “zapateado”. For me fandango is family, because people in Fandango come from different backgrounds. I don’t want to romanticize the language and the space, but I find it to be a zone where we can find solutions for a more productive, egalitarian society.” – I found Viveros’s reflections very interesting, because we started discerning the individual dance, and focusing on the community, as well as how it helps carry on social movements.

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #4: “Hey mamá, se quema la hacienda mamá”


As we were all moving with the punteado, we were told that we always had to “bring our swag” with us. “Put your hands on your hips, always carry your chin high!” we were told by the maestras, as they danced and did the saludos towards the drums with a very serious expression, to me it was the graphic definition of pride. I love how they communicated with us in a similar way that I do back home: Sometimes there are no words to describe a step to take, so we use the rhythm of what the step sounds like to explain it:


Listen to the drums! Takatakata  Tukutukutu if they drummed closer to the center of the drums, you could very clearly hear the tukutú , lower pitch, clearer. But if they hit the drum on the outer area, the takata was the dominant. Watching the maestras respond to these different pitches was like seeing them call the drum and respond to it’s rhythm, or the other way around. There was a moment where you weren’t exactly sure who was singing and who was responding. And this ended up translating onto the music.


I had a friend from Puerto Rico who came to visit, his mother is form there and we grew up listening to this music on the weekends. He commented something that immediately after the maestras said: “Do you realize that the call  – and respond song they’re singing become another instrument of it’s own? As if the calling was a chord or a takata that the drum is playing? – At first I thought, of course! The voice is another instrument (I always tell myself that  since I sing but don’t play other instruments and I feel strange about it).  But then when the meastras commented that now they were going to sing a phrase and we would have to answer the first part:


“Heey Mamá! Se quema la hacienda mamá”   – Heyyy Mamá! – And we all responded in chorus, I realized that without our voices, the dance and the music just wasn’t the same.  We were told that in bomba, there is always this kind of response. And we all sang it together: At this point there was almost none who wasn’t participating! Even people from outside would take a peek once in a while. I have always been drawn to the act of being part of a larger chorus, because only then you feel that your vibrations coming from your lips are joining something larger than your space… We learned that Juba is an ancestral dance, and that it is danced with family members.

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #3: Honoring el saludo


Now that all the dancers are in their salsa, (as we say where I come from) we learn the basic steps of the paseo: The punteado, which means to signal with the tip of your left or right shoe: It’s funny, I recalled that lesson we had at class where we drew the connections between “cowboy dance” and vaqueros from Mexico.. when you learn vaquero style, first thing you are told is to do the punteado as well! When I was growing up in the little town where we would spend our summers, there was a farmer who was the local vaquero dance teacher. He would teach in our local parties at the square of our town, and mostly elder farmers would be really into it:  I am sure we could also find connections with the performing of the masculinity identities that we mentioned in class, and how one style has influenced another.


But going back to Beacon Hill, this time we were in a womxn-lead circle. And the punteado marked the strength of what we had described previously as the power of circle dance as a protective container: Instead of trying to prove anyone our virility, we were celebrating shared ancestral oral histories. One thing that really called my attention was the practice of giving a saludo to the drums, once in a while. I found it a very feminist practice, since in all my GWSS class, we have been told that a number one rule for the feminist framework is to acknowledge all those members of our communities who have contributed to the creation and spread of knowledge, who have made us who we are. So acknowledging a 400 year old instrument as part of this music practice is very important. I would like to learn more history on it, but since we know that these maestras are defying some traditional rules that would not allow womxn to be behind drums or perhaps leading these workshops, the salutation to the drum who for many generations wasn’t played by a womxn, is a beautiful healing practice (at least in my eyes!)

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #2: People start engaging with the music


At around 2:30, the Afro-Latinx maestras started introducing us to the traditions of bomba (Puerto Rico) and son jarocho (Veracruz, Mexico).  We learned about their origins, and what areas of the US you could join communities that could start you on the path of practicing them: But most importantly, at around 2:45, people stepped out of their comfort zones, pulled the chairs against the walls, and started following the maestras as they moved into the realms of practice. We all know that music is an universal language, and this workshop couldn’t have exemplified it best. Children, elder, youth, adults, all turned in synchrony with our maestras, and starting first with our hands on our backs, we learned the basic steps, moving forward and backwards as we followed the rhythm of the drums. At some point we were able to release our hands from our backs, and started clapping. It personally reminded me a bit of some movements from south of Spain, where clapping is essential to mark the rhythm of the dance.


At first you see mostly adults and children more motivated to follow the maestras: I can see other live bloggers writing timidly on the edges of the space, and other UW students following the rhythm slowly, without entering fully into the experience. Our class professors seem to cheer us, as they are on the first line involving themselves completely. But music as an universal language like we commented, and as magical as it is draws you in, as if you were entering a cold lake: First your feet, then your stomach, and then all of you at once!

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #1: Entering the space

I believe there is a strong power in the energy you can feel at a new space, when you have just stepped in. And if there is something I will never stop been amazed by, is the human capacity of building parallel universes within four walls. Our capacity of imagining and using all art forms to welcome different intersecting identities through our creativity truly is magic, and looking at how the conference unfolded, I can say that at least for me and team number 3, Saturday was a day where we were transported to the shores of Puerto Rico, or the lands of Veracruz, taken by the hand of rhythms that healed and awoke us. “Without romanticizing though!”, as Iris Viveros commented several times during the Q&A, I will start describing that day with the physical space, moving on to the invisible power of music.


Embedded at the belly of Beacon Hill, the smell of Pan Dulce accompanied those curious visitors of the different art vendor stands. You could find natural products for your hair, printing and paintings, as well as cool cards and necklaces. Coming from a culture where it is more common to gather as a community and learn traditional dance and songs with the little ones, this space made me feel at home with Afro-Latinx sounds that I had heard growing up in the metropolis of Barcelona, but I never knew how to name or where to trace its origins.